Sunday, July 10, 2011

Celebrating across the globe.

Monday, July 4

Although I missed celebrating Independence Day in America, I still got to celebrate a pretty cool holiday in Rwanda: Liberation Day. Oh yeah, and I got to hear the president speak.

This banner translates to: "17th Liberation Day / Let Us Shape Our Destiny."

This Liberation Day marked the 17th anniversary of the end of the genocide in Rwanda (July 4, 1994). Because of our affiliation with IGSC, we were all able to attend the national celebration in the soccer stadium in Kigali. We also got very official invitations to sit in the "nice" seats by the politicians:

The first few hours of the ceremony were filled with singing, dancing and traditional performances. I took a couple videos (if I can ever load them). For now, photos will have to suffice:

This was the first of many traditional dances performed at the celebration. I loved the long wigs the men wore; I couldn't help but think of Willow Smith as they whipped their hair back and forth.

One of the Rwandan students explained the cultural significance of this dance to me. Traditionally, the large red gourds were used to make butter, and the smaller yellow cups were used to store milk before there were refrigerators. Therefore, both of these items are symbols of beauty and prosperity. The cow is also very revered in Rwanda. In this country, it is a compliment to tell a woman she looks like a cow. As one of the Kigali residents jokingly told me, "If I love you, I tell you you are pretty like a cow," and then he proceeded to "walk like a cow."

Video to come (of a martial arts performance).

I'm not sure what the cultural significance of this little performance was, but I found it quite amusing. There was a funnier one (if you can imagine) before this, but I wasn't quite expecting it and so my camera was not prepared. Can you say girl power?

Finally, it was time to hear President Kagame speak! He was preceded by a couple other speakers, including some government officials, a local woman who performed what sounded like a version of Rwandan "slam poetry" about the genocide, and a man who described his path from being an uneducated Tutsi boy before the genocide to being a successful and wealthy man now. Who would have guessed that I would see the Rwandan president speak live before I saw Barack Obama do the same?

 Demonstrating Rwandan pride with Lauren (one of my fabulous roommates) outside the stadium.

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